Subway, buses, and commuter rail riders in New York City will no longer be required to wear masks, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced on Wednesday, bringing an end to one of the region’s last surviving mask mandates in public places.
The governor announced that masks are now optional on public transportation, although she says they’re still “encouraged.”
“We’re adapting to the needs of all New Yorkers,” Hochul said at a Harlem press conference, noting that the optional mask wearing goes into effect immediately.
Compliance with the face covering requirement had fallen sharply in recent months as transit authorities largely gave up on enforcing the rule. The last time the MTA conducted a rider masking survey in April, rates had fallen to 64% compliance — down from roughly 90% the previous year.
Masks will still be required in health care settings, including nursing homes, said Dr. Mary Bassett, the state’s health commissioner.
The mandate was first announced in April 2020 as New York was in the throes of the pandemic via an executive order by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo. It remained in place for the MTA – which oversees the city’s subways and buses, as well as the Metro North and Long Island Rail Road – even as other transit agencies have moved to make masks optional for riders.
In April, after a federal judge tossed the national mask mandate for mass transit, NJ Transit and Amtrak dropped their requirements, prompting confusion among commuters who were unsure which rules applied.
The Transportation Security Administration also announced at the time it would no longer enforce the mandate in airports or planes, though the Port Authority kept a requirement for JFK and LaGuardia Airports.
The end of New York’s mass transit mask mandate comes as Hochul and the federal government have eased other COVID requirements, including the rules around masking and isolation for public school students.
The state health department is also lifting the mask mandates for jails, prisons, and domestic violence shelters.
Subway riders had mixed feelings about Hochul’s announcement, although many at the Union Square subway station told Gothamist it made no difference given the lax enforcement.
“It’s fine, it doesn’t really make a difference,” said Tony Oppfer, a student. “People who are going to wear one are going to wear one, and people who don’t want to wear them haven’t been wearing them.”
Source: Gothamist. Click here for the full story https://gothamist.com/news/ny-mask-mandate-lifted-on-subway-and-public-transportation-gov-hochul-announces